Since I last checked in with you all we have spent two days at sea and two days in Alta. Sea days are sea days, not a great deal to report but our days in Alta were nothing short of AMAZING so today they are the focus. Actually let me just mention that on one of those sea days we dined in the Ocean Grill where the food was delicious. I think I still prefer Sorrento but I tried the soft shell blue crab to start which was so good! My regular readers will know I am quite a picky eater but I tried it and cleared the plate! For main I went with surf and turf which again was very nice and for desert I had a plate full of sweet goodness, I don’t even actually remember everything that was on it but the cherry ice cream was so good!
So back to Alta, we left the ship at noon and our first stop was the Northern Lights Husky Centre. I had been so looking forward to seeing the huskies so our stop here was a great introduction and of course we got to pet all of the dogs so that was an added bonus. They were incredibly placid and playful, they just wanted everyone’s attention which was fine because everyone wanted to give them their attention. They spend the majority of their lives outside, two to a small wooden hut that bears their names and they are filled with straw in order to keep them warm. After our little meet and greet with the dogs we were given a short talk on how the dogs are trained for racing and what the races actually entail. It was very interesting but it became clear just how much time and energy goes into looking after these amazing animals. I need to point out too that the dogs are mostly Alaskan huskies, not Siberian and they are bred “brains before beauty”. It’s not about the most crystal clear blue eyes or crisp white coat, it’s all about the dog’s intelligence and of course their ability to compete and compete well.
Our next stop was the Alta Slate Quarry. I’ll be honest it wasn’t my kind of thing but it was actually quite interesting and the gentleman giving us our talk was very funny and enthusiastic. The views from here were impressive but the force of the wind kept most of us from venturing outside for too long.
A short journey from the Slate Quarry brought us to Boazo Sami Siida, a traditional Sami village. This was a great experience, we learned so much about the Sami culture and got to meet some of the Reindeer too, one of which was quite feisty and kept putting his antlers in my arm! The camp leader talked about everything from their clothing, which is mostly made from Reindeer skin, to traditional foods and of course, Yoiking. Yoiking is a traditional form of music, no words as such it’s more of an expression. It was quite nice and we were roped into trying it ourselves before leaving the Lavvu which is the traditional Sami tent.
The Alta Museum was next on the schedule and the views from the rear of the building were breath-taking. The exhibits inside were very interesting but I have to admit it was the view that captured my imagination. Sadly we didn’t get to see the rock art in full, of course the ground is thick with snow so the art work is only really visible in the summer but none the less it was nice to be standing at a UNESCO world heritage site and we did get to see the first piece of rock art that was found as it now rests within a glass case inside the museum.
As the sun started to gently set we left the museum and made our way towards the Ice Hotel. One word for this experience, WOW! I have never in all of my life set eyes upon something so incredible and let me point out that the entire thing is built by only 6 people! Come May the entire thing will be nothing more than a pool of water and its sheer beauty makes this fact quite sad. Every year the Ice Hotel is built from scratch and with a new theme, the guy behind the creation even said if they are fully booked they can add four new bedrooms within just a few hours. You are blown away as soon as you walk through the door, the craftsmanship is superb it really is and every single thing you see is made by hand and from ice. There was a beautiful chapel (you can marry in the Ice Hotel) a wedding suite another smaller suite and numerous other rooms along with a bar, small seating area and what resembled a small gift shop. The beds are of course made from ice and are draped with several Reindeer skins, those staying overnight get two sleeping bags to go with it of course as it literally is freezing inside. If I remember correctly the temperature is constantly kept between -3 and -7. It was actually warmer outside. I really can’t tell you how incredible it was, the pictures do no justice at all but please, if you visit Alta you MUST see the Ice Hotel! They do offer overnight stays as excursions from most cruise ships that call here so look it up! You won’t be disappointed!
As the night got darker it was of course time to go out in search of the Northern Lights. There were two spotting locations on offer and our trusted guide made the decision on one area which in the summer is a golf course. We arrived at around 9pm and set up. The sky was quite grim and we did have a brief sleet shower but within minutes it had passed and the stars were once again visible. We really didn’t wait long before we were given the view of our lives! The sky slowly came to life, the beginning of the lights actually looking more like a white whisping cloud than a bright green band of light but as they danced across the sky the colours slowly changed. What an experience! I am so grateful that I can say I have seen the Aurora Borealis with my own two eyes. It stopped and started but we had more than enough to keep us happy and keep the atmosphere buzzing.
Our first day in Alta were wonderful, I had the time of my life and day 2 looked to be just as exciting………….